GOTHENBURG - Volvo Car Corp. has streamlined its management structure to make itself more responsive to consumers.
Dieter Laxy, senior vice president of marketing, has been named to head a new marketing and business development function based at Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg.
Laxy will, in effect, be a customer advocate inside Volvo. In addition to marketing, he will be responsible for product strategy, design, parts and service, and car life-cycle operations. These functions previously have been divided among three departments.
Volvo has also formed a new operating group that will meet weekly in Gothenburg to respond quickly to management issues. The group consists of President Tuve Johannesson, Deputy President Sven Eckerstein, Chief Finance Officer Scott Stewart, and Laxy. Volvo's full management board will continue to meet monthly.
Eckerstein said the new operating group will speed Volvo's decision-making process because the members are all based in Gothenburg, unlike the regular management board, whose members are spread around the world. Bodil Eriksson, head of corporate communication, also joins the management board.
Eckerstein has added the human resources department to his functions as deputy. Luc Bracke, currently vice president of car life-cycle operations, will become president of Volvo Italia. He will also be in charge of Spain and Portugal.
Laxy will share his customer advocacy duties with Hans-Olov Olsson, president of Volvo operations in North America, Australia and Japan, and Wolff Huber, head of Volvo operations in Europe and all other areas outside Olsson's territory.
'We are the (customer) voice into engineering,' said Laxy. 'We work in close cooperation with our colleagues in product and process, as well as car manufacturing. We build up a solid business case and present it to our other colleagues on the management team. We then decide what kind of products we should have in the marketplace.'
The three executives will meet regularly, Laxy said.
In order to intensify its consumer focus, Volvo will invest more in consumer research. The Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, California, will play an important role. The center, staffed by fewer than 20 people, will monitor long-term consumer trends and will help design products in tune with those trends.
Laxy is one of several high-profile ex-BMW executives hired by Ford's Premier Automotive Group since ex-BMW second-in-command Wolfgang Reitzle came to the luxury-car division last spring. Prior to coming to Volvo, Laxy was BMW's UK managing director.